UNISON has told the leader of the county council to ‘stand up to the government’ over funding cuts.
Leader of West Sussex County Council Louise Goldsmith wrote in an open letter published in the Observer last week, that the financial future of the council was ‘eye-watering’.
She said as the council embarked on a plan to save £141m in the next four years, ‘we cannot spend money we don’t have’.
But Dan Sartin, the secretary of the West Sussex branch of Unison, called the leader’s remarks ‘disturbing’ and asked the council to defend its residents’ interests.
There were concerns from Mr Sartin about the council’s preference for outsourcing services as a way of saving money.
“The belief that privatisation can now get us out the hole we find the government digging for us is absurd,” said Mr Sartin.
“The public see through privatisation for what it is – worse services, unaccountable to local people, with profits siphoned out of our local economy and redistributed to shareholders and corporate chief executives.”
He quoted a recent YouGov poll which found many people wanted services like the NHS, energy providers and the rail services to be ‘re-nationalised’.
“Local people know what privatisation means,” he said.
He was also concerned about staff who work in services ‘at risk’ of being outsourced.
“It only ever means downward pressure on terms and conditions, and this is what we have seen in the council’s privatisations so far.
“That does not help staff and their families who live in West Sussex, local businesses who rely on their spending power, or service-users who rely on staff to deliver the high-quality services they need and deserve.”
There are already several council services which are run by private companies, including road maintenance by Balfour Beatty, and many administration and human resources roles are outsourced to Capita.
However, Cllr Goldsmith said despite the council ‘not actually delivering’ some services, it will ‘play a pivotal role in monitoring how services are being provided’.
Mr Sartin said Unison would be part of the debate intp the council’s financial future, and how it can save £141m without privatising many of its services.
“Despite what the leader of the council says, there are other alternatives available,” he said.
“And we will do our very best to defend local communities from the onslaught that is being planned for them.”